The Death of Nu-Nu

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together the actual words, had no chance of making his lips form the words or of pushing any breath through them. Like a man locked into a suit of armor, his body was his entire world. Home and the café were incalculably distant. He could hear only the doctors’ consultations, in tones sapped of any urgency, and he imagined the rest, in flashes, in pieces, weaving them together into a long poisoned dream:

They keep finding the cancer has spread. So they’re amputating pieces of me: first they hack off my toes, then my feet, then one leg up to mid-shin, more and more and more, cutting off and cutting up my body. For some reason that I do not question, they’re not using a surgical saw, but a highly polished aluminum nut scoop.

They haven’t given me an anesthetic, just an Andes Mint. Though I’m supposed to be numb, I can feel it, can feel impact, not pain: I can feel collision. They’re chunking into me, chipping away at me as if I am rock and the cancer is ore. My body shakes and the bedsprings squeak with the impact. Dismantling me for the parts. Jarring me.

Jarring me. Brain here, in the wide-mouth; heart in the Mason; eyes in the baby-food jars. Not pickles, mayo, creamed corn: brain, heart, eyes. I keep telling you. Ignore the labels; shop well; here was once a man; here was once an organ donor. Organ donor. I checked the box on the card. There in my wallet. Organ donor.

I’m the meal at a buffet. The diners, each of whom needs an organ transplant, roll up to me in wheelchairs, looking me over, nostrils flared. Hungry. They are hungry. Each has a highly polished aluminum nut scoop.
The last thought he had before awakening was that his phone bill must be seriously overdue.

Mihmih,” he told the nurse, or at first only his lips told her, without any voice behind them. He had been dreaming a long time, had worked up a great hunger, and now he couldn’t say what he wanted. He wanted an Andes Mint.

It was two weeks before he got his voice back, five before he could eat solid food, seven before he was sent back to Coconut Grove, much longer than that before he finally got it through his head that his dreams of dismemberment and mutilation had not been real, that no one had taken any of him away, removed anything, cut any of him off.

It seemed they had. It seemed they must have. He would stand before his bathroom mirror — the medicine cabinets, with three small palm trees etched into the back of the glass, had been salvaged from a Miami hotel — wondering at how different he was, how much less of him there was.
People ordinarily have the chance — are forced — to get used to their deterioration over time, even when it is accelerated by illness. But these changes had taken place in him overnight: over one long night. Though he was discernibly the same individual, all his substance was gone. Most of the little hair he had still had left had disappeared, and what was left had turned pure white. Reddish-brown spots cropped out on his head and neck. His arms and upper legs were gray and stringy. The cheeks that had once been chiseled were now chiseled away, fallen, sunken, and the skin dangled, flaccid, from his cheekbones. His whole lower face had atrophied, while his forehead, eyes and glasses remained as always, looking as though they’d grown. His face, on which he had liked to model incisive, debonair expressions in the Café’s
Lucca bathroom mirror, was shaped like a light bulb.



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